Boaz has been doing Gaga for three and a half years. He attends class daily, often twice a day. He is still discovering, still learning, and aspires to be a “Gaga People” teacher. After three years of consistent study, Ohad still feels he is not ready. This work is intense and Boaz has such an eye for noticing if someone is really “in it” that I know consistent class takers look to him for feedback, encouragement, and discipline. I think he would be a tremendous teacher. I refer to him as the Mayor of Suzanne Dellal, his enthusiasm for Batsheva, Gaga, and dance is larger than the entire dance compound and the entire neighborhood of Neve Tsedek for that matter.
I am staring down my final classes here and this realization comes with a great deal of sadness and worry about when I will have another experience like this. Gaga classes transport me to someplace I have never been, and like Boaz, I have been taking multiple classes a day. At least two, and on Thursdays, 3 classes. It does not get old. Despite having a familiar framework, the places our teachers have taken us have been profound. The dynamic range, the rhythmic structure, the imagery, and the inventiveness have been so challenging, unexpected, and thrilling that it is impossible to even recognize myself, let alone remember all the discoveries. Despite writing as much as I can remember in my journal. I’d say for every entry, there are probably 4 more ideas that evaporate from my mind and my only hope is to get it all back in some other way. I got my wallet back – so I am hopeful!
Gaga is so much more than simply writhing around as though there were an alien trapped in your torso ( as so eloquently stated by my friend, Helen.) There is room to play, room to rapidly switch dynamics, the movement possibilities boggle the mind, and the exploration as a performer is a welcomed by-product. The hardest thing to do is explain how these classes differ from other improvisation classes and I am summing it up and defining it as “detailed.” The directives are so specific and produce one very clear image that I feel as though I can work with a single idea for days and continue discovering. What I love is that the movement does not simply reside in simple wiggling, but also in taking HUGE risks, and going someplace wild an unimagined. One second you are as calm as a lake, the next severely percussive.
I often tell my choreography students to be certain that their vocabulary is congruous with what it is they are trying to say. I have seen way too many pieces that claim to be about political injustice, but somehow pirouettes and leaps make their way into the work. Albeit, the dancers are doing them with grimaces on their faces, but that only makes matters worse. In Gaga, there is no superfluous story laid on top of the movement, just the physical image that is supposed to manifest itself. In today’s class especially, I saw the beauty of the expressive body through the movement instruction, allowing us to say more than any sort of arbitrary facial expression or harangue in a show program that tries to define an hour’s worth of dancing. The bound elbows, the unyielding legs, had infinitely more power than any words could ever hope to have.
For some Batsheva dancers who were part of the company in the early stages of Gaga, about 10 years ago, Gaga was the ONLY training they had. There was no ballet background for some, maybe theatre, but certainly no rond de jambes in their past, but they were open to investigating minutia. These days, the dancers may get one or two ballet classes a month, the rest is all Gaga – and they meet almost everyday. Granted, the new crop of dancers hail from Julliard and many other cream of the crop dance schools – so they have a leg up – tee hee – how punny! But this emphasizes Ohad’s interest in deepening the experience for the dancers.
I have had the pleasure of experiencing a wide range of teachers: Gavriel and his goofy approach, Stefan with his über sexual gruntings and pantings, Caroline who stops us if she doesn’t see what she wants, Shoachar and Adam who are the gentle souls of the group, and tomorrow I’ll have Idan, reputed to be the best. Each has a different focus but they use similar devices and imagery, it is just that some are energetically relentless, others more quiet, all are surprising and unpredictable. None allow us to be lazy and all compel us to motivate internally and manifest externally, always moving in an alert way and never burying ourselves in cumbersome thought.
Ohad is now offering the first ever certification program for Gaga teachers. This is a nine month course designed to deepen one’s practice of Gaga and will focus on the subtleties that make this technique what it is. The selection process for teachers is rather rigorous, requiring letters of recommendation, a substantial dance background, the ability to speak multiple languages, and a fierce resolve to work deeply and with unwavering focus. This course is based on the detailed language of Gaga and is a journey through the differences between “quaking and shaking, ” “floating and suspending,” “circles and arcs.” The list feels endless.The images are vivid and for me, offer a new way to think about the relationship each body part has to the other. They are delicious nuggets of motivations and are so sublime in what they produce. They awaken all the senses, even the sense of taste. Yes, taste; it’s a focus in class. AND – did you know you can use the back of your neck to take the temperature of the room? Neither did I!
Understandably, Ohad is very protective of this method and has encouraged everyone to use these ideas and explore them on their own, however, no one is allowed to call it Gaga, except of course, upon completion of the 9 month intensive. The governing body of the Gaga concept or institution has been vigilant in their efforts to protect the name. and rightfully so. Think of it the same way you would think of Pilates, especially with regard to licensing the name. It is all the rage, all the buzz, and few can even begin to understand the depth. Even after my five weeks, it is clear that there is much much more. In fact, here, no one, I mean NO ONE is allowed to attend a single class. It is impossible, regardless of what one’s situation is. Either you are in for a period of investigation or you aren’t in at all. Period. It would be easy to recreate a Gaga class almost anywhere under any circumstances, but that would not do the history of the concept justice, and could potentially dilute the sensation, and possibly take away the beauty of this way of moving. Being a total fan, I do understand the one class rule, even though it may make the experience feel all too exclusive and secretive. In addition, I do intend to share some ideas and concepts which I will morph into my own verbage ( a request from the teachers as well ), yet I admit that I know as much about Gaga as I do about thermodynamics, so what I bring back is just what I was able to glean from the 30 or so classes I have had. I will tread lightly and respectfully, knowing that there is way more to learn, and calling myself an expert would just be wrong. Plus, the LAST thing I would want is to face the wrath of Ohad.
Tonight I see Fresco Dance Company, and per Boaz’s suggestion, I will see it after taking a Gaga class. I’ve done this before and he is right , watching dance after a dance class enriches the experience. I saw Michael Miller last night – no need to review it at all. Throw on the soundtrack from Kanye West’s VH1 Storytellers performance, put 6 high school girls on stage, do the same phrase for an hour, and ask for money.
I really do hope Boaz makes it into the Gaga teacher’s training program. I’ll admit – it is such an amazing opportunity. But at $9,000, it is a bit too rich for my blood! However, for Boaz and his experience, I believe he would be an asset to the teaching community. All you need to do is watch him continue dancing well after the class has concluded to recognize, Gaga can lay claim to changing someone’s life. It certainly did for Boaz, and for me, well, it goes without saying.